The return of the Chillout Album
It’s been a week in which the past coming back has caused ripples in my otherwise calm demeanour. Starting a new job only to come across someone I hadn’t seen for 10 years, who I had been close to and admired greatly but where our contact had ended abruptly was the unsettling bit. Still not sure how to react. Has too much water flown under the bridge? You know you can’t go back but is it possible to forge something new? Do I want to? The other unsettling thing was news of a new album next month – The Chillout Album – from Coco Steel and Lovebomb (Chris Mellor (Coco) plus unnamed compatriots).
CS&L produced some brilliant house music in the early/mid 90s on Warp before fading. Chris Coco has continued as a successful artist and owner of the cracking downtempo Melodica label. But you worry when your 90s heroes return, in case, well, the music’s rubbish and tarnishes you and your memories. Thankfully, they haven’t attempted to return to a house music but have gone for an ambient concept album. To be more specific, and the album title’s a giveaway, a sort of update of the classic KLF album Chill Out.
The KLF album portrays a mythical night-time journey by rail up the US Gulf Coast from Texas into Louisiana (more here). It is a brilliant album, recorded in a single take in 1990, that stands up incredibly well today. Even now, I can’t hear a steel guitar without thinking about “Elvis on the Radio, Steel Guitar in My Soul”. To produce your own album that owns up to the debt it owes this seminal record is setting yourself a tough ask. How have CS&L done? But first, why do it?
Chris Coco comments “We have been listening to a lot of new ambient and bedroom computer music over the last couple of years. We felt that it was the right time to make a ‘proper’ chillout album. The loose nature of the Coco Steel & Lovebomb working group is the perfect framework to make some experimental music of that nature. This album is a sort of throwback to the time when CSL were raving and chilling so it felt appropriate from that point of view. It’s taking something of the spirit of that time but adding something new with contemporary production techniques and sounds.”
And so to the album. The KLF set theirs firmly in the USA, despite the samples from other cultures. CS&L’s version is more rootless, reflecting a stateless dance culture, though with more London and Asian or Indian influence than anything else. Although there are puns or pastiches in some of the titles (Soul On The Radio, Lap Steel In My Soul and Alone Again With The Sun Coming Up, in particular) it’s a proper album in its own right, with musical references back to The KLF kept to a minimum. Where it gains on most ambient album is in following The KLF’s lead in having tracks flow one into another. There’s no point for this type of album in reviewing tracks. It slides along with the beautiful haze of the semi-stoned in the sunshine. This will blow some minds this festival season. Does it exceed The KLF? Not sure it really sees itself in that sort of competition. It’s its own lovely self. And that’s more than enough.
Buy (also clips to listen)
Intermittent Light Rain, Rising Slowly
A Tangerine Dream, A Long Way From Home
What Is This Stuff, Blue Grass?
Queueing For Shangri-La With A Surprisingly Level Head
Soul On The Radio, Lap Steel In My Soul
Rain And Walking And A Strange Moment Of Calm
You Parked Your Car In The Spaceport
Uncle Albert Would Never Believe What You Can Do With This Computer [:00:00]
Did You Enjoy The Country? / One Song, You’ve Only Got One Song [:00:00]
It’s A Long Wait For The Trivandrum Intercity Express [:00:00]
Miles Away And Coming Closer [:00:00]
Ice Cream We All Scream For [:00:00]
Hey There Look At You, Unravelling [:00:00]
Alone Again With The Sun Coming Up [:00:00]
The KLF Chill Out
Blurb: Coco, Steel & Lovebomb last got together in 1994 to make an album for Warp Records called ‘It’. 20 years later, on mid summers day, the enigmatic trio return with The Chillout Album, a kind of homage to 90s chillout rooms and lost weekends at festivals. The tracks were made in a series of late night sessions in various south London studios under the heavy influence of many crackly vinyl spins of classic albums by Eno, KLF and Laraaji; with label mates Deekie, James McArthur and Haraket popping in to contribute too. This is 44 minutes and 44 seconds of melodies and grooves interwoven with found sound and analogue noise, making one long, immersive piece that demands repeat listening. The Chillout Album will be released on June 21, mid summer’s day, CD and Digital, on Melodica Recordings. To celebrate the release and the summer, one third of the band, DJ Chris Coco will be DJing an extended ambient version of the album at Heaven, Glastonbury Festival on Friday June 27 and the Ambient Forest at Bestival on Friday 5 September and Festival No 6 on Sunday 7 September.